Do you know what your doctor is doing when you’re sedated? Everyone hopes they’re performing a procedure to the best of their ability, including minimizing risk. However, one Anchorage medical professional was found to be doing anything but. Seth Lookhart, a local dentist, is in serious legal trouble after prosecutors found video of him performing a procedure on a patient while riding a two-wheeled electric scooter known more commonly as a “hoverboard.”
Prosecutors found the video and sent it to his office manager, jokingly describing it as a “new standard of care.” However, despite the immense risk associated with operating on a patient while riding a notoriously unstable device, this wasn’t what actually triggered the investigation. Lookhart actually stands accused of Medicaid fraud.
The allegations against Lookhart come after the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Office of the Inspector General, and agents from the FBI and DEA all investigated after he billed Medicaid for $1.8 million for IV sedation. IV sedation is a costly form of anesthesia that’s normally only used when extreme sedation is required, such as lengthy or potentially dangerous procedures. This sedation costs Medicaid $170.76 for every 15 minutes a patient is under; nitrous oxide gas, the far more common method of sedation for dentists, costs a flat $57 per procedure.
The over-reliance on this expensive procedure accounted for nearly a third of the state’s combined Medicaid bill from a total of 57 dentists. When asked to justify why he chose IV sedation for so many patients, he cited “anxiety” and “comfort,” which prosecutors claim is an insufficient explanation.
Lookhart’s office manager, Shauna Cranford, has also been implicated in the incident. She is accused of charging documents as well as playing a role in convincing Lookhart to introduce IV sedation as his go-to anesthesia method.
Prosecutors deemed Lookhart a flight risk at his bail hearing back in April due to his having a clinic in Brazil, and he was forced to surrender his passport as a result. If convicted, he’ll face up to 10 years in jail as well as $100,000 in fines and $2.5 million in fees.
Was Dr. Lookhart Careless?
While the big story here may have been Dr. Lookhart’s Medicaid fraud, there’s also a great deal of concern with his conduct that tipped off prosecutors. Hoverboards were the popular gift during the holidays a few years back, though their craze was short-lived after many of them caught fire while charging. They also led to numerous injuries due to people’s inability to operate them. Often times people would attempt to operate these boards with no experience and without the property safety gear, leading to all sorts of painful injuries.
Furthermore, even those who didn’t necessarily fall and injure themselves on their first attempt found out just how difficult they can be to control. Even slight fluctuations of weight could lead to the board going haywire, making them incredibly unstable.
Not only was Dr. Lookhart using one of these potentially dangerous devices around his office, placing himself and his employees at risk were he to collide with them, but he continued to do so while performing a procedure on a patient. Dentistry requires and extremely steady hand and careful applications of force. Most procedures often involve sharp instruments such as scalpels and probes, and much more. Even one slight jerk from the hoverboard could have led to the dentist’s hand slipping at a key moment and causing an injury to the patient. An injury caused to a patient due to negligence and unnecessary risk is grounds for a medical malpractice case, meaning Dr. Lookhart could have found himself facing serious financial repercussions.
In this instance, the patient said she was unaware that the dentist was on a hoverboard during the operation. It’s safe to assume she probably wouldn’t have approved had she been told he would be doing so.If you have been injured by the careless actions of a dentist or other medical professional, call the Anchorage personal injury attorneys at Power and Brown, LLC today! Dial (800) 405-2092 to request a case evaluation and learn more about your options for compensation.